ZIMBABWEANS working in South Africa can begin renewing their special work permits next week, Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba said on Thursday.
"In August I announced the establishment of the Zimbabwean Special Permit [ZSP] of 2014, allowing Zimbabwean holders of this special permit to work, conduct business or study in South Africa for three years, until the end of December 2017," he said in Pretoria.
"Only the approximately 245,000 holders of the Dispensation for Zimbabweans Project [DZP] are eligible to apply for the ZSP."
Applications for the ZSP could be lodged from 1 October on the website.
In June, Gigaba announced that VFS Global, a world-wide outsourcing and technology services specialist for diplomatic missions and governments, had been appointed to manage visa and permit applications in South Africa.
On Thursday, he said the company was ready to process the Zimbabwean immigrants.
"All the 10 ZSP application centres have been secured by VFS. These include totally new centres in Midrand, Gauteng; Cape Town, Western Cape; Polokwane, Limpopo; and Durban, KwaZulu-Natal. The remaining six centres are in George, Port Elizabeth, Kimberley, Bloemfontein, Nelspruit, and Rustenburg," he said.
A total of 120 staff would process ZSP adjudications.
Around 250,000 Zimbabweans were issued four-year work permits under the DZP in 2010.
Gigaba said South Africa was under strain from economic migrants from the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
"We were trying to regularise the entry and exit of these nationals into our country. Instead of crossing the fences and entering through irregular means they can enter through a recognised port of entry," he said.
Visitors from the SADC region had a 90-day visa exemption annually.
"If you stay longer than 90 days in a calendar year you will be considered to have overstayed and you will now be liable for penalties as applying in the [new] immigration regulation," he said.
"We have been insisting that fellow African countries must collaborate with us by identifying their nationals, provide them with passports and we both manage the movement."
He said immigration regulations across the region needed to be harmonised so no country carried a disproportionate burden of economic migrants.
Gigaba said the upcoming documentation of Zimbabweans would not be characterised by chaos, as happened in 2010.
"People are going to be invited for interviews. Nobody is going to jump the queue or bribe their way," he said.
The applications would cost R870.
"We believe this fee is reasonable when compared with visas and permits of similar duration."
Zimbabwe experienced a mass exodus of citizens following land seizures and the disputed 2008 elections in which President Robert Mugabe retained office. The economy was plunged into recession characterised by hyperinflation.